Savoring A Walk to Many Interesting Sights of London
By Susmita Sengupta
London, an extraordinary city to visit, is definitely one of the world’s most popular vacation destinations. There is no dearth of things to do whether you are on your first or your tenth visit.
It can be hard to choose from among the many cultural and historical sights, and the numerous eating and shopping areas that fill London.
Sometimes, and especially if you are on a return visit, it helps to focus on interesting and unusual sights that one might have missed earlier in order to see the top attractions of London.
And that is just what we did when we had the good fortune to revisit this magical city.
Start at King’s Cross
We began our return London sightseeing experience at the King’s Cross – St. Pancras International railway station, its Victorian era architecture, a sight to behold. King’s Cross has been a major transit hub in London starting from 1852 and now there are Rail Europe services, suburban and airport services as well as London Underground trains that run to and from it.
Our first point of interest was to take a look at the Eurostar high speed train at St. Pancras that can take you to Paris and other points in Europe via the Channel Tunnel in a few hours.
We were certainly not alone as I noticed other tourists, also not traveling on Eurostar, come in to view the train and its station. We also made time to admire the magnificently restored glass arched roof of Kings Cross station as we crisscrossed it to get a better look.
As we were accompanied by our daughter, we made a quick stop at the Harry Potter merchandise store underneath the beautiful roof. Located just outside the store is Platform 9 ¾,, represented by a trolley full of luggage embedded into a brick wall, well known to fans of the Harry Potter books.
The secret train platform is used by Harry Potter and his friends to board the Hogwarts Express to head to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Stopping by a Library
At about a ten minute walking distance from King’s Cross is the British Library, the world’s foremost repository of important books, maps, texts and documents.
The library came into being in 1973 and has more than 170 million items and an equally vast digital archive, making it one of the largest libraries in the world.
Head here to see for free: exciting and important manuscripts such as the original Magna Carta, the original writings of Charles Dickens, Shakespeare’s First Folio, musical writings of Mozart and many, many original maps, books and texts.
While you can certainly see everything for free, you can also do a detailed guided tour of the building or the permanent treasures exhibit for a fee.
The Interesting Wellcome Collection
We have found the Wellcome Collection, also at a stone’s throw distance from King’s Cross to be a one of a kind museum. All the exhibitions here highlight the connections between art, medicine and science and their impacts on life.
During a 2015 visit to London, we experienced an exhibit on Tibetan Buddhism, yoga and meditation and its influence on people’s physical and mental health.
At present there are exhibits on milk where one can see and learn how and why milk is so central to our diets and how that impacts politics and culture.
The permanent exhibit “Being Human” “explores what it means to be human in the 21st century and our hopes and fears about new forms of medical knowledge.”
The SOAS Brunei Gallery at the University of London
London is home to the world famous University of London and its many colleges and institutions are located in the Bloomsbury neighborhood and are at a few minutes walking distance from the British Library. Our destination was the Brunei Gallery at the School of Oriental and African Studies or SOAS.
The gallery showcases permanent and rotating exhibitions that depict Asian, Middle Eastern and African art and culture.
We enjoyed some relaxing and peaceful moments in the Japanese Zen Garden located unusually on the terrace of the gallery and thus offering a nice view of London rooftops.
A Walk through Beautiful Camden Lock
A short ride on the London Underground or a public bus from King’s Cross will bring you to delightful Camden Lock. Find all information on London public transportation here.
Here you will see a collection of markets that seamlessly flow into each other offering shops and stalls selling a variety of items from food to footwear and myriad bars and cafes extolling Bohemian vibes.
And though everything here looks really old, the fact is that Camden Lock market actually opened in 1974.
We loved the Camden Stables market with its tunnels and stable blocks as previously horses used these spaces to carry cargo from the canals.
I was quite taken in by the look of the clothing store Cyberdog where two large, metal statues with a robot look guarded the entrance.
Namaste was another clothing and accessories store, selling goods from India, that had a highly colorful entrance decked with a large elephant head.
When you get hungry after walking through the market, head to the Streetfood stores where you will find carts selling foods from across the world.
Know more about Camden Market here.
The Regents Canal Towpath and Word on the Water
You might decide to walk back from Camden Lock via the Regents Canal Towpath. The entire route of the path (about 10 miles) takes you around the perimeter of Regents Park, starting from the Little Venice neighborhood in Paddington and finishing at the Limehouse Basin near the River Thames.
Unable to do the entire walk, we decided to experience a part of it, walking from Camden to King’s Cross (about 1 mile).
There were boats bobbing in the water though the scenery was stark as it was winter. I loved the sight of a Christmas tree made entirely out of wooden snowshoes.
And then as we neared King’s Cross, we came upon a most wondrous sight. A floating barge moored in the water, selling books. This is Word on the Water, a bookshop in a boat and certainly a hidden gem in London.
Though it looks tiny from the outside, the inside was spacious, full of warmth and charm, stacked top to bottom with books and periodicals to suit all tastes.
Enjoy Indian Food at Dishoom
If you’re hungry, definitely make a stop at Dishoom King’s Cross, located inside a Victorian era industrial building and a mere 5-minute walk from Word on the Water.
Though there are many outlets of this eatery across London, this one is the largest and offers decor inspired by erstwhile Indian railway cafes and Indian fare inspired by the foods of Mumbai, such as spicy Chilli cheese toast and delectable Pau Bhaji where mashed vegetables are filled inside hot buns.
A Theater, a Museum, a Cathedral and a Bridge
For another interesting walk, we decided to visit the Millennium Bridge that links the City of London to the Bankside district. This is one of the newer bridges across the Thames and is pedestrian only.
Our sojourn began at St. Paul’s Cathedral, a well known landmark. The cathedral with its iconic dome towers in the area, built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1710 who placed it on Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the city. You can tour the cathedral if you desire to climb the dome, see the various galleries or the crypt.
From St. Paul’s it is a mere 5-minute walk to the London Millennium Footbridge, a suspension bridge that connects the Tate Modern museum (admission is free) on the south bank to the City of London on the north bank of the River Thames.
Though it was wintry and cold, there were many visitors over the bridge taking in the magnificent views all around. Surely a few may have been Harry Potter fans as the bridge plays a pivotal role in one of the books and movies from the series.
We spotted The Shard, which looks like a shard of glass pointing into the sky, the 72 floor skyscraper and the tallest building in the UK designed by Renzo Piano.
Reach the south bank and apart from the famous Tate with its modern and contemporary art, notice Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, a faithful reconstruction of the original theater of 1599 close by to the left.
You can take a tour to learn and see the fascinating history of the place. And certainly if you have the time take in a performance at the open air theater where shows are held rain or shine.
Susmita Sengupta, an architect by background, from New York City, loves to travel with her family. Her articles have been published frequently on GoNOMAD, Go World Travel, Matador Network and many other travel websites.